It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The ace who just last year produced the lowest ERA (1.66) in a single season among qualified starting pitchers since Greg Maddux in 1995 and the lowest WHIP (0.84) since Pedro Martinez in 2000 wasn’t supposed to struggle like this. But things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for Zack Greinke since signing a six-year, $208 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks this past offseason. His current 1.31 WHIP isn’t too far off from last year’s ERA and his current 4.59 ERA is almost triple that of last season’s mark. At this rate, Greinke and his fantasy owners are unlikely to remain friends forever. But what exactly has happened here? Is he going to turn things around, or was last season just a fluke?

Let’s take a look at Greinke’s profile to determine why he’s struggling and what can be expected from him moving forward. Here are a few observations:

His new home ballpark is more hitter-friendly than his old one. You can probably file this one under “well, duh” but Chase Field in Arizona has been a more offensive-friendly environment than Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles over the last few years. In terms of runs scored from 2013-2015, Chase Field finished among the top 6 ballparks in MLB while Dodger Stadium was the fourth lowest in that category. However, it might surprise you to learn that…

His new home ballpark is less homer-friendly than his old one. This statement isn’t true in regards to the 2016 season thus far (Chase Field is currently 4th in MLB HR park factor; Dodger Stadium is 18th), but it is true as far as the previous three seasons are concerned. From 2013-2015, Chase Field ranked 15th in MLB while Dodger Stadium ranked 12th in that category. In regards to Greinke, this information makes it somewhat curious that…

He’s allowing homers at his highest rate in the last decade. Greinke has surrendered 8 long balls in 64.2 innings thus far in 2016, good for a 1.11 HR/9 rate. That would represent his worst result in that category over a full season since 2005. His HR/9 over his three year stint with the Dodgers was 0.69. It could just be smallish sample size noise, or perhaps the lack of a book on Trevor Story (who took him deep twice on Opening Day), especially when considering the fact that compared to previous seasons…

His batted ball profile is virtually unchanged. In fact, Greinke is allowing fewer fly balls this season (30.2% FB% in 2016; 32.9% in 2015), but more of them have managed to leave the park (13.3% HR/FB this season; 9.2% career). Quality of contact is virtually identical to recent seasons as well. It’s also encouraging to see that…

His strikeout rate, walk rate, velocity, and pitch selection are extremely similar to last season as well. Greinke’s K/9 (8.07 to 8.08) and BB/9 (1.81 to 1.62) when comparing this season to last indicates similar control and the ability to miss bats. His velocity on the fourseam fastball is still sitting in the 92-93 mph range while his FB/SL/CH/CU arsenal and usage patterns remain intact. Perhaps the biggest differences in Greinke’s profile from last season to this season are his…

Significantly higher BABIP and his poor strand rate. Greinke’s BABIP has risen almost 100 points (.229 to .328) while his LOB% has fallen 15% (86.5% to 70.5%) from 2015 to 2016. It’s probably fair to conclude that his .229 BABIP from a year ago was at least partially the result of some good fortune, but it’s swung the other way for him this season, especially in regards to his strand rate. From 2013-15, Greinke didn’t post a strand rate lower than 79.7%, so even though he now calls Chase Field home, that current 70.5% mark should normalize in the coming weeks.

Bottom line: There’s no question that Greinke got off to a terrible start in Arizona this year. Through his first five starts, his numbers (6.16 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 7.04 K/9, 1.47 HR/9) were quite an eyesore. Very quietly though, he’s righted the ship over his last five starts (3.18 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 0.79 HR/9), and is beginning to resemble the dominant pitcher that he was last season. Chase Field (and neutral luck) is likely to result in a BABIP closer to .300 than .200 for him  this season, but he looks like a top 15 fantasy SP. There might be a brief buy low opportunity here.

Final Verdict:

 

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  1. John says:
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    Would you trade Carrasco for Grienke?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @John: Carrasco is one of the dozen or so starting pitchers that I’d still take over Greinke. He’s scheduled to return within the next week or two and his injury wasn’t arm-related. Love his stuff.

      • John says:
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        @Big Magoo:

        Thanks! You rolling out JB’s J Ross tonight? 5.2 innings is not my goal with him! Need a win at home.

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @John: St. Louis isn’t the best matchup, but they’re without Carpenter tonight and it’s the first game of a road trip for them. I’d start Ross.

          • John says:
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            @Big Magoo:

            Good call….thanks!

            • Big Magoo

              Big Magoo says:
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              @John: No problem

    • Mel

      littlecf24 says:
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      @John: Thank you John, that was my exact question. Tough to stay patient on a guy chilling in your DL slot

      • John says:
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        @littlecf24:

        True! Hopefully our patience will be rewarded!

  2. John says:
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    Would you give up Ortiz and samardzija to Get Arenado?

    Current starters are Carrasco, G. Cole T. Walker, Harvey, Hammel, samardzija

    Thanks!

    • John says:
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      @John:

      Different John BTW….Arenado is a top ten guy so I would do that immediately

      • John says:
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        @John:

        Isn’t Ortiz a top 20 hitter at this point? Very tough one here.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @John: I’m a big Ortiz fan, but I’d take Arenado there. He’s a first round fantasy asset and your pitching staff should be fine without Samardzija, especially with Carrasco nearing a return.

  3. J-FOH says:
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    Great RELEVANT content. Even without heat maps and your charts you nailed this one.

    I would be curious what the roto grinders park factors say about last year. Defensive grades and that stripped down outfield in AZ isn’t doing him any favors. Speaking of AZ this Shelby miller deal keeps getting worse. I’m rooting for swanson to make his debut this year with a bang and sending Dave Stewart, who is obviously grossly under qualified for the job, back to tranny, I mean trans gendered hooked land.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @J-FOH: I was going to compare LA’s defense from last season to Arizona’s current defense, but I wound up omitting it. Long story short, they’re basically even in terms of defensive WAR and UZR. The Miller deal never looked good to anybody except Dave Stewart and Braves fans.

  4. Balls In Play says:
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    Is it time to dump Carlos Martinez after he has spent the month of May blowing it? Not one quality start this month, K/9 of 7, and ERA/FIP/xFIP all over 4.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Balls In Play: In a standard 12 team league, I’d hold him for now. Could see cutting him loose in shallower formats though.

  5. Grizza3569 says:
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    Standard 5×5, 12 man h2h league. Which side?

    Stanton and G. Cole
    Or
    Kershaw and J Upton

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Grizza3569: Kershaw side. Best pitcher on the planet, and even at worst, Upton should improve upon his power numbers.

  6. Runner says:
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    Trade corasco to get greinke ?
    Trade Arrieta and belt for sale ?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Runner: Carrasco over Greinke. He should return in a week or two, and his injury wasn’t arm-related. Lots of upside. Arrieta side in the second scenario. Arrieta and Sale are about even, so Belt tips the scales there.

  7. Runner says:
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    Thanks Magoo!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Runner: No problem!

  8. Schwab says:
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    Dynasty league 8 teams where we keep 15 each year. It’s a H2H points based league. Was offered Greinke for either Mazara or Ozuna. I also have Springer, Marte, Bradley and Sano as my other OF’s. Would you trade one or hold? Thanks.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Schwab: Definitely not Mazara. Hold onto him. I’d take Greinke over Ozuna in that format though. A top 20 SP has more value than a .280/25 hitter in a points league.

  9. EazyE says:
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    Awesome as usual, love this segment. I’m in a 12 team h2h points keeper league, in need of better pitching.
    I have :
    Sale
    Pom
    Porcello
    Wisler
    Stroman
    Corbin
    Tomlin
    Wade Davis
    Jeffress
    Ken Giles
    Berrios
    Tyson Ross DL

    Not much on the FA scene:
    Tropeano
    Cain
    Sabathia
    Colon
    Mike Minor

    I’m assuming I should make a trade, but should I drop Corbin for any of the above?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @EazyE: Thanks! I’d hold Corbin there. After a rough start, he’s pitched much better in May. Keep an eye on Tropeano though. He’s a little whippy, but a solid strikeout pitcher. Colon can be used in plus matchups as well.

  10. Hugh G. Rection says:
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    As a starter, Tanner Roark seems to quietly have very legit value over his career. Thoughts on him in keeper leagues? His run support has been terrible this year, but numbers are solid.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Hugh G. Rection: I think his value is very fluid from year-to-year. He pitched out of the bullpen for most of last season after all. With Scherzer and Strasburg signed to long-term deals and Gio and Ross the next two in line, he’s probably the pitcher who gets bumped (barring injuries) once Giolito gets the call.

      • Hugh G. Rection says:
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        @Big Magoo: I’m surprised they haven’t tried trading him with Giolito coming up. Surely a guy with a 2. career ERA as a starter (over 2 1/2 seasons) have to have some value. Would you try to keep him long term in a keeper league?

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Hugh G. Rection: He definitely has value, especially in real life. Still has a few arbitration years left, so he’s cost effective, and he’s good enough to be a back-end starter on a contender. I don’t think that he’s viewed as a long-term piece by the Nats though. He’ll fill the 6th starter/swingman role once Giolito is up, and be the first man up if there’s an injury to one of their SPs. He has more value to them as depth than a trade piece though, so I don’t think he’ll be moved (though it’s possible). I wouldn’t view him as a keeper in all but the deepest leagues.

  11. Ralph Lifshitz

    Ralph Lifshitz says:
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    Great stuff Magoo. I will now buy Greinke low everywhere!

    BTW can you take a couple of weeks off in Perts? Truss needs a race to talk about in his weekly updates.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Ralph Lifshitz: Haha, nice! I just lost Moustakas and traded Ozuna away, so I’ll probably see a dip on offense. Plenty of opportunity!

Comments are closed.